Letter from the Director of Fraud Operations

In this issue: Wire fraud costs consumers and banks hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Fraud expert Victor Searcy explains how businesses and people at home can beat this fast-growing trend. Law enforcement gets smart with task forces to fight identity theft in all its forms. And avoid a cruel cybersummer with online safety tips for teens.

Thursday, July 14, 2011
We see a lot of creative crime here in the Fraud Resolution Center, and we’ve come to accept that there are some wily crooks out there. They’ll build and sell credit card skimmers online. They’ll even impersonate and steal money from a child.

But recognizing the effort that goes into developing new forms of identity theft doesn’t mean we respect the thieves behind it. When we see a new crime trend, we pay attention and become more determined to help victims—people and businesses—fight back.

Such is the case with wire fraud, the focus of this month’s newsletter. The number of phone calls we’ve received on the subject has been increasing for the past year, and the Federal Trade Commission’s annual survey of consumer complaints supports our sense that it is a growing—and serious—problem. As criminals become more sophisticated and learn to shut down or redirect communication between a banking institution and its customers, more and more people are falling prey to wire fraud and losing their hard-earned money. Sometimes they even have to fight their bank or credit union to get it back.

One client, Betty Riley, lost half a million dollars when someone impersonated her and wired money out of her savings and into a foreign account. We’re fighting this trend on the front lines: We helped Riley get her money back, and we’ve developed important tips to prevent others from becoming victims.

It’s hard on banks and credit unions too. In our Ask the Expert, we offer tips on how financial institutions can save time and money—for them and their customers—by following certain protocols for electronic transfers.

From our perspective, we can also see how—just as thieves change their methods and develop trickier ways to commit crimes—law enforcement needs to adapt too. Those of us on this side of the fence need to be craftier, smarter, faster and more organized than they are. New law enforcement task forces are springing up around the country to address the multifaceted problem of identity theft, which respects no boundaries between countries or continents, police department divisions or court jurisdictions. We take a look at these collaborative investigative efforts, which are crucial to making major advances in the fight against identity theft.

Finally, our goal is to keep people safe, always. The need to be vigilant doesn’t change with the season—though the type of crime often does. This summer, protect your teenager from trouble online with our cybersafety tips geared just to them.

We hope you enjoy this issue of our newsletter, and we hope you stay safe.

Victor Searcy
Director of Fraud Operations

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If you need identity theft assistance, call your provider organization to be put in touch with the CyberScout Resolution Center. More information for individual consumers.